The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Kansas-2 Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday October 10, 2011

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Kansas-2 Race Recap

Matt McLaughlin · Monday October 10, 2011


Jimmie Johnson reasserted himself in the Chase with his win at Kansas. He’s now third in the standings, just four points behind leader Carl Edwards.

The Key Moment – Jimmie Johnson easily aced Kasey Kahne on the green-white-checkered restart to score the win.

In a Nutshell – Toto, I don’t think we need to go to Kansas anymore.

Dramatic Moment – Ummm… well. Define drama. By my definition, this race was utterly and totally devoid of any drama.

What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week

This weekend marked the 140th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire. Sunday’s race may have been the biggest disaster in the Midwest since.*

Isn’t it amazing how NASCAR’s alert spotters always find debris on the track when a driver builds up a thirteen-second lead? One of those officials jumped the gun on Sunday and nearly triggered a fuel mileage finish by calling a debris caution five laps too early.

How is it Jimmie Johnson passed Kurt Busch exiting pit lane but he wasn’t caught speeding?

Speaking of Johnson, isn’t amazing that upon learning ESPN’s microphone was almost dead in his initial Victory Lane interview, he was able to repeat his words almost verbatim when the reporter was handed a live mike? I think he must have been typing out what he wanted to say after the race on his iPad in the closing laps.

OK, what fool decided we needed to go to Kansas twice during the Cup schedule?

The way it’s looking right now, it appears like there’s going to be many more drivers looking for a ride next year than there will be seats available. Jack Roush seems resigned to reducing his outfit to three teams next year, while Richard Childress Racing may do the same. It looks increasingly like the two-team Red Bull outfit is just going to disappear with no buyers on the horizon. Kasey Kahne and now Clint Bowyer are lucky enough to know where they’ll be driving next year; Mark Martin, David Ragan, and Brian Vickers do not.

Several people have asked me about the points Reed Sorenson earned before being released by Turner Motorsports early last week. Yes, points earned towards a drivers’ championship go with the driver when he moves to another team. That means, yes, technically if he drives in all the remaining races Sorenson could still be the series champion (it would take a bit of a miracle). He’ll likely have to finish a lot better than 26th, though in an underdog ride with MacDonald Motorsports.

While the stands were far from full, there were quite a few race fans on hand for the Cup race. It seems Kansas fans must appreciate the ability to buy tickets to an individual race rather than season tickets. Oh, and for the record the casino isn’t open yet.

What are the odds? In the Truck Series, Austin Dillon has a narrow points lead over James Buescher. The pair’s brothers, Ty Dillon and Chris Buescher, are atop the points in the ARCA series as well. (Of course, the gap between the two is a bit more formidable in that series…)

If nothing else, those Australian V8 touring cars are a lot more high-tech than the Cup cars. I fell asleep before the race ended but what I saw looked more competitive and entertaining than the typical Cup race. The TV broadcast was better as well (no inanity from the Hollywood Hotel helped a lot) and tended to focus on the action more so than the Cup races FOX does. That happened, of course despite several efforts by our old friend Darrell Waltrip to derail the proceedings.

Speaking of Saturday night, the SPEED channel and ESPN did an amazing job tag teaming. Some fans stayed up for the Australian race and even the Formula One event that started at 2 AM here on the Right Coast. Shortly thereafter, ESPN helped them all get a much needed nap with their broadcast of the Cup event.

A lot of racing fans of all stripes have been eagerly awaiting the new Velocity Channel (formerly known as Discovery HD.) It’s been rumored a lot of the racing the SPEED channel has dumped in favor of serialized programming (much of which is frankly awful) would return on Velocity, sparking interest. I had my first encounter with Velocity over the weekend, though and it left me scratching my head. Friday, they broadcast the Mecum collector car auction from Dallas until nine PM, then switched to an hour’s worth of poker. Poker? What in the hell does poker have to do with vehicles? Saturday’s programming decision was even more bizarre. Velocity broadcast the Mecum Auction from 2 to 6 o’clock; then, with the auction still going on, they switched over to a re-run of the four hours of coverage they’d already shown. If there was any advertising for upcoming race events on the channel, I must have missed it.

*- As tragic as it was, the Great Chicago Fire wasn’t actually the deadliest disaster in Midwestern history. The same night the fire started in Chicago, there were four major conflagrations around Lake Michigan that some current scientists speculate were started by a meteor crashing to earth. (The cow kicking over the lamp story in Chicago has long since been proved false.) In Peshtigo, WI, one of those fires is said to have claimed 1,200 – 1,500 lives compared to 300 to 400 lost in Chicago. The Peshtigo fire, in fact, burned wooded acreage twice the size of the state of Rhode Island. So now you know.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Jeff Gordon ran in the top 3 for almost the entire race but blew an engine with three laps to go. I’m not saying Gordon’s title chances are over, but they took a severe blow on Sunday.

Tony Stewart was best in class (second to Johnson) for much of the race but he slid through his pit box on the final stop and backing up so the car could be serviced took him a ton of extra time. The No. 14 car wound up fifteenth.

Teammates Martin Truex, Jr. and David Reutimann both suffered broken axles exiting the pits. Truex had actually been running fairly well after last week’s debacle at Dover, but both wound up well outside the top 30 on the same weekend Michael Waltrip Racing announced its expansion with Clint Bowyer.

Ryan Newman couldn’t pass anything but the time all day. He wound up eighteenth.

Joey Logano, two laps back in 29th may have reached the point they need to print up milk cartons to help find his missing career. In a related memo, the head of the Wonder Bread bakery released a statement that pop-top beer cans, not Sliced Bread, were the best thing to happen in the last century.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Carl Edwards’ car was dreadful most of the day, to the extent he needed a free pass to even get back on the lead lap. Yet somehow in the frantic final few laps, he was able to charge his way to a fifth-place finish. Even the ESPN Boys in the Booth weren’t sure how that happened. Of course not. They were watching the TV coverage of the race on their monitors.

Though his car wasn’t as bad as Edwards, Kevin Harvick spent much of the race running midpack and complaining mightily about his car on the radio. But when the dust settled, he was sitting comfortably in sixth.

Greg Biffle got nailed for speeding in the pits during the race and sent to the back of the pack. Still, he recovered well enough to finish eighth.

A slow pit stop dropped Kasey Kahne to fortieth position early in the race but he had enough time to rally back to a second-place result.

Because he isn’t in the Chase, the achievement went largely unheralded but Marcos Ambrose finished ninth on Sunday.

Worth Noting

  • Chevrolet wrapped up this year’s manufacturer’s title on Sunday. It’s their ninth in a row, capturing every one since the start of the 2003 season.
  • Johnson’s win was his first since Talladega in April, but he has led at least one lap in each of the last nine races. Note to other teams trying to dethrone the No. 48 outfit: that’s a lot of bonus points.
  • Kahne’s second-place finish was his best of the season.
  • Brad Keselowski (third) has finished twelfth or better in ten of the last eleven Cup races. He’s just eleven points out of the lead in the standings. Can you imagine NASCAR crowning a Cup champion who left 99 percent of Americans asking, “Who?”
  • Matt Kenseth (fourth) has top-10 finishes in the last three races. Running out of gas at Chicagoland might come back to haunt him at year’s end, though.
  • Edwards (fifth) has top-10 finishes in the last seven races, including all four in the Chase.
  • Ambrose has finished ninth the last two weeks.
  • The top-10 finishers at Kansas drove four Chevys, four Fords, a Dodge and a Toyota. (Note: If Clint Bowyer was already driving for Michael Waltrip, it could have been two Toyotas. Of course, if Bowyer was already driving for MWR, his axle would have snapped leaving the pits.)
  • Paul Menard’s twelfth-place finish was his best since the second Pocono race.
  • Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (14th) hasn’t led a Cup race since the Brickyard 400.
  • Denny Hamlin’s 16th-place finish was actually his best result in the four Chase races. That’s not going to get the job done.
  • Landon Cassill’s 17th-place finish was the second best of his Cup career. (Cassill finished twelfth at Michigan.)
  • Gordon’s 34th-place finish was his worst since Richmond this spring, as well as his first engine-related DNF since last year’s Homestead season finale.

What’s the Points?

Edwards assumes sole ownership of the points lead this week. He was previously tied for the position with Harvick, who is now second – a mere one point behind the No. 99 bunch.

Johnson advanced two more spots to third and is now just four points out of the number one position. Brad Keselowski and Kenseth also advanced two spots in the standings and are now fourth and fifth, respectively.

Kurt Busch fell two spots to sixth. Tony Stewart took the biggest hit in the points, falling four spots to seventh while Kyle Busch hangs onto eighth. The top eight are still within 20 points of the leader four races into the Chase.

Further back, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon swapped ninth and tenth spots, with Junior now holding the advantage. But even Earnhardt is a full 43 points out of the lead and Gordon is four further points back. Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin hold on to 11th and 12th.

In the “Best of the Rest” category, 13th-place Clint Bowyer is now twenty points ahead of 14th-place A.J. Allmendinger.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic) — Give it two cans of warm generic stuff, whistle through your teeth and spit.

Next Up – The Cup series returns to its spiritual home in Charlotte, North Carolina. Saturday night’s race is being sponsored by Bank of America, so teams have been informed they will be charged five dollars each time they use their air guns.

Contact Matt McLaughlin

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Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
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Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
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10/10/2011 07:54 AM

The new Velocity network, formerly known as HD Theater by our service provider, does have some interesting shows for motorheads even if it as yet hasn’t shown any racing. I like Chasing Classic Cars, Wheeler Dealers and What’s My Car Worth. I consider the car auction shows to be fillers and I don’t watch them, just like I don’t watch the ones on SpeedTV.

Bill B
10/10/2011 08:27 AM

I’ll give this race one can of beer that someone has opened and left sitting on the side of the road in the sun, only when you go to drink it you realize, that isn’t beer.

10/10/2011 08:45 AM

finally… this weekend i was smart enough not to watch it. not even the 20 minute dvr version.
i’m actually surprised to hear that jeff ran a competitive race with the new car on a cookie cutter, but i still don’t think he has a prayer at the title.

10/10/2011 09:15 AM

not sure if it was just when i would flip back to the race….thought the lovefest in the booth for johnson was nasuseating. i swear that’s all i ever heard them talk about was johnson, johnson, johnson, and how he’s now going to win the championship. not sure, but if that happens, nascar should just stick a fork in itself and it will be done for most long-time fans.

yeah the debris caution when johnson was told to save fuel…..just another lovely nascar call. landon cassell seems to be able to spin out and cause caution when it’s needed as well for the certain owner’s group of cars.

oh well……happy Columbus Day!

10/10/2011 09:40 AM

Any idea why Biffle pitted on the final caution? Didn’t he get four tires on the previous stop when everyone else took two tires or gas only?

10/10/2011 10:26 AM

Since it was brought up by Jeff Gordon a Hendrick driver.

I was wondering if a “FUTURE” teammate did not help Johnson on that last restart. For as well as Kasey was running before the GWC he had a poor restart, And held up Brad and Matt until mid turn 2 when volia he took off.

Bill S.
10/10/2011 10:33 AM

Matt, JUST SO YOU KNOW, Peshtigo (and hence the Peshtigo Fire) is in WISCONSIN, not Michigan. The residents of this fine state comemorated the day with both Brewers’ and Packers’ victories.

As for NASCAR, get out the SIX-PACK! Looks like JJ is heading for another one. Not my first choice, but way better than Edwards or Un-Happy Harvick.

And what’s up with Childress putting ringers in to help Harvick? Austin Dillon pushing Kevie during a caution to save gas. I am still pissed about the time he started and parked Neil Bonnett just to assure Dale Sr. of one extra finishing position in one of Sr.‘s championships. Childress is a worse lowlife than Hendrick ever could be. And that’s going some.

10/10/2011 10:40 AM

So many questions, Matt, I am reminded of the epic line Patrick McGoohan wrote for his series “The Prisoner,” “Questions are a burden to others; answers a prison for oneself.”

And in other news, the race being crushingly boring the best thing on TV yesterday was the season finale of “Breaking Bad” though it may be that the writers have trapped themselves by killing off the best TV bad guy since “Homicide: Life on the Street” killed off Luther Mashoney. That show never recovered.

The Supercars race was interesting, but only made me wish GM would import the Holden UTE.

So now it is on to Charlotte. I am somehow somewhat underwhelmed by the prospect.

10/10/2011 11:03 AM

Speaking of fires and meteor showers, it is too bad one cant hit the crappy track called Kansas. One of the most boring races I have ever tried to watch. I wont try it again. 2 races here is like sending us fans to the gas chamber. Why can we not put some exciting races in like Bristol? Any thing has got to be better than what we are getting now. Thanks for listening to my rant!

10/10/2011 11:56 AM

Looks like it was a good Sunday to run a marathon. On so many levels, I’m shedding no tears over this one. Next!

The Mad Man
10/10/2011 12:02 PM

There was a race in Kansas? I thought it was a 4 hour nap.

Brian France Sucks
10/10/2011 12:08 PM

Hey, at least Martinsville and Phoenix are still on the slate. Kansas, and Kentucky, need to be bulldozed, along with Joliet. In their place, there need to be 3 more tracks no bigger than 1 mile in length, and preferably, no bigger than 3/4. NA$CAR (this means you Fat Brian) has crippled itself off with greed in building 1.5 snoozers. Other than Atlanta and the rare Charlotte race, 1.5’s consistently produce horrible racing. Cars go too fast. Aero push ruins passing. 10th place car gets out front and becomes 1st place car. Garbage.

Don Mei
10/10/2011 12:08 PM

GM did import the Holden. It was sold as a Pontiac G8. Not many takers, just like the Holden/Pontiac GTO. Pontiac of course has gone down in flames in the midst of the GM post-banruptcy reorganization

10/10/2011 12:35 PM

GM still imports the Holden/G8. It’s now called the Impala PPV and it’s only available to law enforcement agencies. GM had also planned to import the Holden Ute (what people here are calling the El Camino but slow sales of the G8 and that whole bankruptcy mess ended that notion.

Ford also sells a Falcon Ute (they don’t call it a Ranchero but that’s the concept) Among various iterations it sells includes one that come decked out for tailgating straight from the factory complete with a cooling system and tap for your keg of beer.

If you go the Austrailian Ford site you can also check out the new Ranger mid-size pickup. Why Ford isn’t importing that is beyond me.

Bill S.
10/10/2011 12:56 PM

To the Editor: Thanks for fixing the “MI” to “WI.” It makes a difference to us Cheeseheads.

10/10/2011 01:16 PM

“Because he isn’t in the Chase, the achievement went largely unheralded but Marcos Ambrose finished ninth on Sunday.”

Are you implying that drivers not in the chase don’t get mentioned?

If the Racing from Australia ever gets on TV where a lot more people can watch it, the end of NASCAR will be shortly thereafter.
I was watching the Australian race and when it got to two laps to go the feed went to blackout in Canada for the F1 race (the race was on TSN). I was not a happy camper but the telecast came back I guess when someone realized it wasn’t the F1 race. Over seven hours of DW is hard to take but at least there weren’t many Tyertas to talk about.

Canadian Stewart Friessen won the Syracuse Mile race again. Speed will show it October 29th at 8 pm.

And just how did Edwards wind up fifth when earlier he couldn’t get out of his own way? NASCAR will make sure it never happens again.

10/10/2011 01:23 PM

I wondered about that final restart too. Since Kahne is coming to HMS next year, it was all too convenient that he didn’t restart worth a darn that last time. Can’t hurt 5X’s chances of getting 6, can we? Ugh – 1 can of warm beer only because that’s the lowest I can give it.

And yet, Brian France is “pleased”. And all is right with the world.

10/10/2011 05:56 PM

Man, I gave up on Nascar YEARS ago…and I used to be a total die hard fan.

I still come to this website from time to time just to read of the continuing slow death of a once great sport..and the writers are funny.

Tony Stewart was right; Nascar is wrestling on wheels. So they’re still doing the ‘ole caution flag bit? What a surprise.

I would say nascar is a joke, but jokes are usually funny. The current state of nascar is a total waste of time and money.

Now excuse me while I go watch some old VHS copies of some Winston Cup races and remember what nascar used to be.

Kevin in SoCal
10/10/2011 06:30 PM

Matt said “OK, what fool decided we needed to go to Kansas twice during the Cup schedule?”

If you’re unhappy with Kansas twice a year, we can go back to Fontana twice a year instead… :)

10/10/2011 07:06 PM

The Bathurst 1000 was one of the best races this year (in fact most of the “best races this year” have come from that series) …. SPEED’s coverage was excellent, and for a 6-hour, 600 mile race, it was a hell of a lot more interesting and exciting than the Coke 600.

For a 6 hour race with hardly any cautions, on a 3+ mile road course, to come down to inches in the last 5 laps, in some of the best nose-to-tail racing ever seen, says a lot. I really hope the broadcast helped bring new fans to the sport.

Even DW was fun to listen to, for once.

Tom Dalfonzo
10/10/2011 08:24 PM

Michigan and Fontana can be added to that list of tracks to be bulldozed.

Why do you people think I’m nuts for wanting Iowa, Nashville, Rockingham, North Wilkesboro, Pikes Peak, Evergreen, and Irwindale to receive Cup races? Those tracks deserve to host Cup Series events more than Fontana, Kansas, Joliet, Michigan, and Kentucky every will. I know very well that they will deliver thrilling races every time the Cup boys compete there. Can you imagine the spike in interest that Cup races at those tracks would generate?

10/11/2011 10:48 AM

…and this was a chase race…I gave this race one stale beer that was left out in the sun for a couple of days. Kansas speedway sucks. Between the lousy racing and the sheer amount of commercials, this race was unwatchable. I’ve been a nas$car fan for 30+ years, but I watched football and just checked on the race once in awhile. Sorry toto, but this was a dog of a race.

10/11/2011 02:56 PM

Tom, what’s the common denominator in all the tracks you listed as not deserving of a Cup race? They are owned by the France family, so we are stuck with them.

One has to wonder since Edwards was having so many problems, was Nascars multiple cautions at the end to help ole Carl get back on the lead lap and get everything fixed?

10/11/2011 06:27 PM

James and Chris Buescher are cousins not brothers. Check your facts. This is the second time in a week that has happened.

Tom Dalfonzo
10/11/2011 09:27 PM

Steve, those tracks I listed REALLY DON’T deserve a Cup Series race. I’m sure that you and a lot of other people will agree with me that Iowa, Nashville, Rockingham, North Wilkesboro, Pikes Peak, Evergreen, and Irwindale DO deserve to host Cup events.

Do you realize how much better the Cup Series circuit could be if those tracks were on it? Those raceways have truly proven themselves worthy of hosting Cup Series events. Cup Series dates should only go to tracks that can deliver only the best racing every time.

I just have to correct you on something, Steve. Kentucky is actually owned by Bruton Smith and SMI.